One in Christ

Do you like Marmite?
Or: Who likes Brussels Sprouts?
How do you have your Scon(e)s (or Scones ;-), clotted cream under or on top of the jam?
Who does have an apple device? And who an Android?
I could keep going on this forever.
And you could, too.
There seem to be so many things we polarise about.
And they are always of a YES – or – NO – nature.
You can’t have a bit of marmite, or you can’t like Celtic a bit – and the Rangers “a bit”.
Or the University of St Andrews Football Club – is there an opponent?
WHY do we do this!
There seems to be a reassuring element in this, even a sort of comforting manifestation.
You BELONG to either group. But you DO belong.
And belonging seems to be a very important question not only these days.
I have just learnt from my 12 year old daughter what FOMO means, you will all know, I presume, it is the fear of missing out.
So by deciding for one of two polarising parties we make a decision where we belong.

Two years ago, on the 31st of October I was in
St Andrew’s for the very first time, at the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s (alleged) publishing his theses on the door of the Schloßkirche in Wittenberg, Germany. 500 years of Reformation.
In Germany the 31st of October is the commemoration day of the Reformation, and even a holiday in some regions.
After I heard the former Archbishop the most Reverend Rowan Williams on this occasion I feel very humble to stand here today.

His sermon about the church that has to face its reformation again and again as a lifelong learning process stayed with me for a long time.
Reformation: It caused a shift in the question of: Do I still belong to the established church, or do I join with the renegades of the reformation like Luther, Zwingli, Hamilton, Cranmer and Knox? And, whilst joining these unorthodox people, establishing new churches providing places where on could belong (again). And feeling assured.
Reformation/ Re-Formation: As Luther did not plan to break entirely with Rome or even set up a new church, it might be worth thinking about re-forming.
Re – meaning “again” forming church and society.
And re-forming the shattered pieces of the church/es
If we look back to Luther, society and church were deeply divided.
Very rich bishops and clergy, frightened and hungry parishioners.
The rich and mighty, being the only ones to read and write  – and to demand obedience and money  – for salvation.
Society was deeply divided.
As it was for the pupil of St Paul who wrote (probably) the Ephesians letter.
As it was for the Pharisee and the tax collector in St Luke’s Gospel.
As it IS today, for us.
The churches are divided, here in this country in a well behaved way, quite respectful, but the churches ARE divided. About many things.  And people IN churches are divided about many things. Deeply rooted is the feeling of one’s feeling of belonging to this or that group/ party or church.
Society is as divided as much as one can think.
I won’t say the B-word, because the whole thing is a condensation point for very real issues. Real divisions. Between poor and rich, those, who achieved something (or their parents or grandparents).
Real Divisions between young and old, Tory and Labour. Real divisions between North and South. West and East.
All these and many more issues condensing on the plate of Br….
All these issues are questions of belonging and the desire, the yearning of belonging, and so of identity and the search for lost identity.

The umpfh with which the reformation embarked onto Martin Luther’s and other Theologians theology was a condensation point as well.
And as right as his theological approach was in so many respects, one result was division. 500 years later we have made much progress in healing those massive divisions, but we are still separated.

The author of the Ephesians letter is also afraid of divisions.
The letter to the congregation in Ephesus seems to have been a circular – and hopefully not been binned too often, so there is no particular situation in the congregation that is addressed.
I won’t lecture about who has written it and when and why. Because it does not make a difference to the cause.
But I will follow those who say it will have been written not that long ago after Paul died. And with him lots of authority. Because it sets the scene:
There was a fear that everything could break apart as individuals or groups could get into fighting about who is right in fundamental questions.
Ephesus was one of the large cities of the Roman Empire, where many cultural and religious influences thrived and clashed. One could fear that these young and small Christian churches in the first century could just disappear if they were not held together. As different in their spirituality and theology the individual might be.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

There is one key word (I know there are quite a few) that got my attention: HUMBLE:
And this word appeared in the Gospel reading as well.
Sounds a bit old fashioned.
Not very cool.

If you are humble, you step back a step.
From a position, from a confrontation, from being overconfident in presenting your opinion.
Being humble means waving farewell to a polarised YES or NO-Response.
Being humble means reflecting on what might be the true importance in that moment.
Being humble means tearing down walls by gently taking away one stone after the other.
Being humble  – is much more difficult than dashing ahead.
Being humble can be so challenging – but there is a great gain in being humble.
We might gain fellowship across all divisions.
We might gain the feeling of belonging – with people we would never expect.
Being humble – we might dare to reflect on the question if BELONGING has become the centrepiece and the stumbling block at the same time, hindering the real question to be approached.
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
This is the foundation of being humble as a Christian.
We can be young or old, Greek or Ghanaian, German or Scottish, Spanish or English, Welsh or Northern Irish, rich or poor, charismatic or conservative, Baptist or Anglican, Church of Scotland or Episcopal Church of Scotland.
There is one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
One God and father of all.
We shall not forget this.
We all have been blessed with God’s love  – and that is the base of our encounter.
Let us be humble and respectful.
Listening to each other – helping each other – and enriching each other’s life.
You don’t need to love Marmite – but you could start to like the Marmite lover 😉
This is the foundation of being humble  – and BELONGING (not to a fraction)
Because, if you listen carefully to the words:
There IS one body and one spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

There IS – not: There shall be, or might be, or can be.
There IS.
In Christ we ARE one. As God and Humankind came together in Christ.
We all belong.
There is only ONE body of all us.   Who ever we are. Marmitians or not, Vinegar on chips lovers-or not.
Let us remain in God’s love.
And let us leave division behind.
Because we are ONE.
There is one body and one spirit.
Now and here.
This will give us food for thought – and our understanding of ecumenism and all divisions in church and society.
We all BELONG already.
May we feel encouraged in our daily encounters.
The question of FOMO and belonging to fractions can be shelved.
And we can be humble and grateful.
And tear down the walls.